Monthly Archives: April 2016

For a Little Political Moment

IN THE MORNING… I heard someone yesterday objecting to Ted Cruz (at least I think the intent was objection) on the basis that “he thinks everybody in America should start their day on their knees in prayer.” My response: “Not a bad idea.” The conversation turned there to matters not germane to this post, so we will leave it.

I can hear a lot of my atheist friends objecting on a First Amendment basis, which I, frankly, consider balderdash. The Amendment commands, first: “Congress shall make no law.” Which places no limit on anyone else, anywhere else in this great and vast nation, and is utterly silent on the matter of mere suggestions from public officials or private citizens. (It should be pointed out that, constitutionally, Congress is the sole legislative authority at the Federal level (and ONLY the Federal level — setting aside the so-called supremacy principle for the nonce), a principle which, these days, is honored more in the breach with every Thomas E., Tricky Dick, and Harry S. issuing orders, regulations, and ukases right, left, center, fore, and aft.) and no other pronouncement may have the force of law, so … what’s the bother?

The First Amendment (and requirements within the Articles) are said to demand a wall of separation between Church and State. Which is a silly notion, since we have no Church for there to be a wall between it and the State (which has gotten entirely too big for its britches anyway) — big-“C” as in The Church — in America, (that pesky no-establishment thing), only a bunch of little-“c” churches. Yet, by demanding said wall, the anti-theists, in effect, establish their own church.

For it seems that the semi-(NGO-style)-official High Church of America has, by default become the New and Reform Church of Christ Anti-theist, or so the anti-theists would have us believe, claiming the Founders were “deists” who, having worshiped in Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, and even Catholic churches for nigh on two hundred years, didn’t ascribe to Christianity. Such is the anti-theist Big Lie, which, having been repeated often and loudly for decades, now, is close to becoming Received Truth, though We the (little) People seem to be resisting the notion somewhat of late.

Lest my atheist friends be offended (such offense not being my purpose here), I should state my opinion, which it seems is close to observable fact, that while atheism is simply another strain of religious belief, which is to be greeted with a shrug and a “suit yourself” by Americans everywhere, ANTI-theism, the toxic strain which seeks to breach the OTHER part of the First Amendment — the part which demands Congress make no law respecting the free exercise of religion — is, in effect, an offense against individual rights: simple bigotry, not to be tolerated.

So, when a man of faith is open about it, rather than concealing his intent by obfuscation, persiflage, and outright lies, and makes a suggestion which is, on the face of it, utterly harmless, and may even redound in a net good to the country as a whole, one has to ask those objectors (in tones Christians must get tired of hearing in response to objections to moral decay in the country), “What are you so upset about?”

Artsy Fartsy Living

SO I’M SITTING HERE THINKING Photography’s an art, innit? Right?

There was a big controversy about that back when I was a boy photographer back in the ’60s. They said, “Anybody can TAKE a picture.” (Implying, of course, that there’s not much art in that.)

Of course, as the true photographers knew all along, you don’t so much TAKE a picture, as you MAKE a picture. Even were it possible to capture a scene exactly as it is in a given instant, the next instant, it will change — subtly or in gross. And, in photographing the scene, you influence its appearance, as well as the quantum existence of its constituents.

Plus, a photograph prevents you from actually knowing a given scene. There’s the NCIS example, when di Nozzo explained to Kate why they still sketch crime scenes. Others, I’m certain, abound. Even I knew all that back then. It concludeth to say that there is more artifice in a photograph than not.

In my HS days, though, my specialty was candid portraits. Even on the yearbook staff, it was an acknowledged specialty. And I took my text from Henri Cartier-Bresson**, who was famous for his fly-on-the-wall mode of getting images. I even carried a black camera, as inspired by HC-B.

(And, funnily enough, I look up at the camera hanging by its strap off the baker’s rack I use for a desk and — sure enough — I’m still carrying a black Nikon.)

And the shots of mine that made it into the book(s) the years I was on the staff were candid. Though I suspect I wasn’t all that unobtrusive. Sitting in a high school classroom, ignoring the teacher, snapping away, shooting endless rolls of Tri-X, candid shots of self-conscious teenagers: hard to avoid being noticed. And being a 6-foot-plus hulk, (albeit pretty skinny back then), dressed in dark colors, with that big old camera stuck up to my eye all the time.

malger selfie 160422earnie_in_window_lightBut that’s still my style, making candid portraits of the world around me. Nowadays with digital cameras — in the phone, yet (What’ll they think of next!?), it’s easier to capture what you see, though sometimes, it’s still a tough job to get what you see in the frame. Even in a mirror. Not gonna state it as a rule, but it does seem to me as though you can’t get a camera in a position to where you can photograph yourself as you see you in a mirror. The perspective is always wrong — the shapes of objects are distorted subtly. Here, I was looking at the image in the mirror, but the image is looking at the screen on the phone, thus lidding the eyes, it being impossible to look two directions at once.

Serendipity plays a pivotal role in instantaneous art — that is art over which the artist has only when-to-push-the-button control over when to freeze the motion that is an inevitable component of any scene — even the stillest of still lives. In the fast-moving art of candid photography, even the most carefully-framed shot will reveal the unexpected — which can often be seen as a bonus.

serendipity_illustration_btb_160424jane looks upFor example: in the images to the right, the top shot is the intended frame. I was trying to get a picture of Loki. Jane just photobombed me. But Loki moved too fast for the shutter to “freeze” him in action, thus making him too blurry for a normally acceptable shot. (I say normally, because I’ve had blurry shots turn out cool enough to use for some purpose, but it’s not common.) But The image of Jane, when framed and cropped correctly, is of interest. So it is treated so and saved as one of “my” pictures.

**The link goes to a Wikipedia article about Henri Cartier-Bresson. For the love of God, if you have the slightest interest in art or fine-art photography, go and read the article. Follow the links. Buy the books — especially Cartier-Bresson’s The Decisive Moment.

Yet Another Art-a-Day Post

TWO WEEKS LATER. In fact, it’s been so long, with the interim so eventful, I barely recall the subject matter alluded to in the March 29 post. However, today, I have a different subject to relate to you.

Part of my take — right or wrong — on this exercise is that we participants ought to present current works IN PROGRESS. A sort of a semi-formalized What I Did Today. Being a procrastinator, I’m going to lag that a bit. But I think I have an excuse. I was up until 3AM fighting with the machinery and software to transfer photos from my phone to my computer. (If anybody knows a transfer utility superior to Air Droid, please enlighten me. For me, it keeps losing the WiFi connection and failing of transfer. The photo set for today’s post totals out at 43MB. I’ve no idea why, even at WiFi speeds, that should take long enough to time out.) So my post TODAY is about what I did YESTERDAY. For what I did TODAY, tune in TOMORROW. (Or maybe later, depending on how well I can keep to this schedule. Past performance being a reliable indicator of future results. (Or however that goes.))

20160412_171354Swennyway. What I did yesterday was build a shelf. For my wife Toni (whose birthday was Monday, BTW) to go on the exposed brick chimney above her desk in the Study at Casa d’Alger. So, as a spoiler, here’s what it looks like, now finished. Process shots next. (Click to embiggen. Click all the little pictures if you want to see them bigger.)

The whole thing stems from when Toni started collecting things VW. Well, no, I suspect it goes back to the eighties when we collected Lladro porcelain figurines. We have a large stock of cats, flappers … I think there’s a ship under sail in there. Birds, bunnies, rocks, ashtrays (not so many of those since both of us quit smoking). Tux, the Linux penguin. A rubber duckie. Mugs and mugs full of pencils and markers. And, here lately, Toni’s been developing quite the garageful of bugs and buses. And neat, framed art — photos and prints.

It’s started to get a bit crowded over there. So Toni started looking for corbels. I was picturing a pair of nice acanthus leaves, or an owl or a gargoyle. But she ended up with some nice, Shaker-esque brackets. Seven inches tall by five deep. With dadoes cut top and back and screw eyes mounted in the dadoes.

Left Corbel20160412_174719Meantime, let us consider the field. As you can see in the pic above (and the left and right ends, herewith), there is casing molding either side of the brick, covering the seam between the brick and the drywall. Og and I selected this and the dentil molding that runs around the ceiling line of the whole room (or will once it’s done). It’s triple-fluted, so the placement of the corbels is critical. It would have been nicer if they had been the same width as the molding, but you do with what you have. The downside of this is that it becomes obvious that the two pieces — the molding board and the corbel — were not made to go together. If they had, either there would be a table cut into the molding to bed the corbel or the flutes would have been stopped short of the corbel’s position. However, simply mounting the corbel on the molding, with the flutes continuing under it doesn’t look THAT bad. And the upside is that there is a well-centered trough in which to position the mounting screw, which makes the mounting easier.

Before mounting the corbels, I set a six-foot level across the space and drew a line on the moldings to serve as a guide to everything. Then I measured the corbels to make sure I was setting the screws in the right place to position the tops level to each other and the base line. Good thing I did that. On one, the keyhole for the mounting screw was centered 1316” down on the other, the drop was 1¾”. I also noticed to my chagrin that the manufacturer had neglected to include a bracket for the shelf in the top dado. Seemed a rather dumb design decision to me, but, hey — they’re selling, so it must work for them. I’ll never buy another anything from that manufacturer and I doubt they’ll miss me.

Having marked the drops, I set the screws and drove them in with the drill, leaving the heads proud (and testing with the brackets periodically, adjusting with a hand screwdriver). I take a moment to note here that the idiot teenager who designed these things specified flat head screws, rather than the application appropriate round or pan head (with or without washer).

20160412_165438Then the action moved outside with a collection of tools and a six-foot number one grade white pine one by six bought previously. I cut it to length. (Love my Diablo blade — a quick spritz of WD40 on the running blade helps fora cleaner cut and helps keep the blade clean.) 57 inches was our rough measurement to determine needed stock, but the actual length turned out to be 56¾”

20160412_165555Once cut to length, I wanted to chamfer the top edges on three sides (not the side against the wall. My router is a Bosch 2¼ HP beast that weighs a ton but is suprisingly easy to handle and quite nimble on the wood. It handles like a dream when its running. The spinning motor has enough mass to have a gyroscope effect, making the thing tend to want to stay steady. I pulled it out of storage for this project and was surprised when I opened the case to find that I’d put it away with the chamfer bit already locked up and height adjusted to a cut depth appropriate for a ¾” board. It was the work of a couple of minutes to finish the edges.

We’d agreed not to put any kind of sealant or finish on the shelf because of Ditto. Birds don’t take well to the volatile organic compounds that are outgassed from paints and varnishes, not to mention solvents, so you don’t use them in areas where birds are — or even nearby. (And that includes deodorizers.) So the final step in building this shelf was to sand it smooth and clean — free of blemishes and splinters. Not too hard, since I’d started out with white wood to begin with. I put a quarter-sheet of 320 grit sandpaper in my Bosch orbital pad sander — another power tool that’s a dream to use — and smoothed the face and edges, softening the corners as I went. I spotted and smoothed one place where the router had chattered a bit and missed another one. I bet nobody else will ever see it.

Next time, a pretty jewel of a piece.